Dr. Charles van Riper III

Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
USGS Research Scientist Emeritus  

Sonoran Desert Research Station
125 Biological Sciences East ~ University of Arizona ~Tucson, AZ 85721-125
(520) 626-7027 ~ (520) 670-5100 fax ~ (520) 491-0721 call

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Graduate Students

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences - School of Natural Resources - University of Arizona
ENR#2 - Tucson, AZ 85721 -

PHOTOS of Graduate Field Work, Research, and other fun stuff

Andy Boyce

Postdoctoral Fellow


 Andy is completing his PhD at the University of Montana with Tom Martin.  His dissertation revolves around the seven years of work he did in Borneo.  He started working on the Cordilleran Flycatcher (COFL) project in SW Colorado in June 2017 and assisted with geolocator attachment and completing the last year of data collection on the breeding ecology of the COFL. (Note the geolocator on the COFL he is holding in his hand).


Harrold Greeney

Postdoctoral Fellow


 Harold returned to Tucson and the University of Arizona after 14 years in Ecuador.  He is presently working on a book for Oxford Press on the nesting of South American birds.  He has assisted over two field seasons with the migration of Cordilleran flycatchers and tracking them in Colorado, Arizona, and on the wintering grounds on northwest Mexico.



Abigail "Abby" Darrah


Postdoctoral Fellow


 Abby received her PhD at the University of Arkansas, studying under the late Dr. Kim Smith.  Her graduate research focused on radio tagged water birds (MS) and tropical passerine species in the Amazon (PhD).  While at the University of Arizona she led field crews on the Cordilleran Flycatcher breeding ecology project and surveyed birds in pinyon juniper habitats in northern Arizona and southwestern Colorado.  She was at SUNY Syracuse (2015-2017) and presently works on coastal shorebirds for the Audubon Society in southern Mississippi.



TJ Fontaine


Postdoctoral Fellow



TJ obtained a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from The University of Montana in 1997, and his Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries from The University of Montana in 2006. Over his tenure as a wildlife biologist TJ has examined questions relating to avian life history evolution and behavioral ecology on three continents. He was working as a postdoctoral fellow examining the patterns of migration and stopover ecology in Neotropical migrants. Specifically, he was interested in identifying major migratory pathways and sources of selection acting on stopover site selection. By understanding how birds move from winter grounds to breeding grounds and the obstacles they face along the way, we can better understand their evolution and subsequently their management. He was an Assistant Coop Unit Leader with the USGS and an Associate Professor at the Univ. of Nebraska in Lincolon, and has now returned to Missoula, MT.
Chris McCreedy


M.S. 2015


Chris obtained a B.S. in Resource Ecology Management (focus on Forest Ecology) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1998. Two days after graduation, he traveled to New Mexico to study Bell's Vireos and was forever altered. He has worked in the Eastern Sierra for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory since 1999, and has led PRBO's Mojave and Sonoran Desert projects since 2003. He's moved to the van Riper lab in Tucson to refine his study design and analysis skills, and to get the field data out. He is just finished working at the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, on a study of catastrophic fire impacts on breeding and migrant songbirds of the Sonoran Desert and is writing up a paper on climate impacts on Mojave bird nesting.  Chris worked for Point Blue (formerly PRBO) and led the Mohave/SW research section, and is now in Tucson continuing his research on midwestern and southwestern desert birds.
Jherime L. Kellermann


Ph.D. 2013




Jherime completed a multiple major program in 1998 at Pennsylvania State University with degrees in anthropology and psychology. From 1998 – 2001 he worked with the USGS on the Puaiohi Recovery Project (now Kauai Forest Bird Project) in the Alakai Wilderness of Kauai, HI. From 2002 – 2008 he worked with Redwood Sciences Lab and Klamath Bird Observatory, monitoring birds and their habitats throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of northern California and southern Oregon.  In 2007 he obtained a Masters in Wildlife from Humboldt State University. Jherime's research at HSU examined the ecological and economic services of birds on Jamaican coffee farms. He found that birds significantly reduced coffee berry borer pest levels, an ecosystem service valued at $44-105 US per hectare.  Jherime has also been involved with research on Mexican Spotted Owls, Bahama Parrots, American Dippers, and Aleutian Cackling Geese.  His current research at University of Arizona is examining the temporospatial distribution of migratory birds across the large elevational and ecological gradients of the Madrean Archipelago in southeast Arizona and the potential impacts of climate change on the relationships between avian migration, plant phenology, and the quality and availability of stopover habitat. Jeherime completed his PhD in January 2013 and now workwith the National Phenology Network in Tucson, AZ.  When not involved in research, Jherime has been exploring cultures and ecology in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Borneo, and China.  Jherime is presently an Assistant Professor at southern Oregon University in Klamath Falls, OR and is the unit lead for the NPS Crater Lake cooperative program. 
Miguel Villarreal

Mendenhall Post-doctoral Student  email


Miguel completed his PhD in the Dept of Geography at the University of Arizona in 2008.  He was a US Geological Survey Mendenhall Post-doctoral Fellow.  As a post-doctoral student with Drs. van Riper and Laura Norman, he completed work on the Barry M Goldwater Bombing Range (West) inventory and monitoring plan pdf.  He also worked on mapping Yellow-billed Cuckoos and other studies on the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers in southern Arizona.  Miguel is presently a USGS Scientist at Menlo Park and their new location at NASA Ames in CA.

Glenn Johnson

M.S. 2010


Glenn completed his Masters of Science degree with the Wildlife and Fisheries Science Program in the School of Natural Resources, University of Arizona. His goal was to understand and utilize the scientific process in wildlife ecology research, and effectively apply my knowledge in order to conduct meaningful field studies that will inform wildlife management and conservation practices. His Research focused on modeling bird distribution and diversity on the upper San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora, especially in relation to the vegetative and hydrological influences of the thriving beaver population that was re-introduced to the area in 1999 and 2000. Glen now lives and works as a biological consultant in Oregon.  He is still contemplating several publications from his masters research.

Levi Jamison Levi Jamison Collections

M.S. Candidate

M.S. 2017

After receiving a B.S. in Environmental Biology from Fort Lewis College in 2006, Levi began studying the newly introduced tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda carinulata). His work largely transformed into a geographic experience as he helped track beetles as they spread across the Colorado Plateau. Becoming interested in more detailed research focused on the colonization dynamics of the beetle, Levi began a Master's of Science program at the University of Arizona in 2010. His studies now focus on modeling the colonization patterns of D. carinulata across big rivers and landscapes, with the hope that his research will better help mangers make informed decisions concerning tamarisk and the presence of the beetle.  Leviwas in Flagstaff, AZ conducting bird surveys for Matt Johnson and trying to complete the last paper of this MS thesis.
Michael Lester 
M.S. 2013   

Michael studied the cascading effects of environmental contaminants on the Song Sparrow along the Santa Cruz River drainage, from the headwaters at Lochiel, into Mexico, then back through Nogales into southern Arizona.  Michael is presently leading bird tours and working on Snowy Plovers along the southern California coast and birds on the Lower Colorado River.

Karla Pelz-Serrano

M.S.-PhD 2010



Karla is originally from Mexico; she obtained her B.S. in Biology from the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro in Queretaro, Mexico in 2004. For the past four years she has been working on projects in ecology and the conservation of mammals, such as volunteering for The Northern Jaguar Project, and studying beavers, coyotes and black bears in the Sierra de San Luis, Sonora. Recently, she has been working for the Laboratory of Ecology and Conservation of Wildlife at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) on the “Janos la Ultima Pradera” project, first as a field technician and now as a volunteer. Her work on this project has been focused on the ecology and conservation of black tailed prairie dogs and American porcupines and monitoring reintroduced black footed ferrets. Karla was pursuing a M.S. in Wildlife Management and Conservation at the University of Arizona, and has matriculated to the PhD program. Her goals are to apply all the scientific knowledge she gains in her graduate work to generate management plans for the conservation of the natural resources at a transnational scale. Her master’s research focuses on the effects of isolation on the conservation and population genetic structure of beaver populations in the Cajon Bonito River, Sonora (Mexico) and the San Pedro River, Arizona (U.S.). Her research has important implications for future management plans for the conservation of the beaver, which is in danger of extinction in Mexico, and for the riparian ecosystems in which beavers are important ecosystems engineers. Karla is presently an Assistant Professor at a univeristy just north of Mexico City.

      Sarah Puckett



M.S.  2013


Sarah obtained a B.S. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego in 2008. Over the course of the following year, she worked for the California Wolf Center, a member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) captive management program. While there, she conducted educational tours and took part in wildlife handling and chemical immobilization training.  Concurrently, she volunteered with the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, CA, catching and banding local raptors for educational presentations to the public.  After coming to the University of Arizona Sarah’s research addressed the degree to which breeding birds along the Dolores River, CO, eat the Tamarisk beetle.  The beetle, introduced as a biological control agent for the introduced Tamarix, deters the invasive shrub through defoliation.  Tamarix is prevalent along many southwestern waterways and is currently a target for management and removal.  She is presently in the San Diego, CA area working on conservation issues.

Former Students and Post Doctoral Researchers


Kristina Ecton Paxton
M.S. Degree


Kristina ( formerly Ecton) Paxton was a graduate student with Dr. van Riper at Northern Arizona University where she received her MS degree. Her thesis focused on the use of stable hydrogen isotopes to examine Wilson's warbler migration dynamics in the southwest. She has completed a PhD program at Southern Mississippi State University, and is living and teaching in Hilo, Hawaii.



Chris O'Brien   Ph.D.


Chris received a B.S. in Zoology from Northern Arizona University in 1996. After graduating, he remained in Flagstaff and worked at NAU and at the Colorado Plateau Research Station until 2002 when he started a Ph.D. in the Department of Biology with Dr. van Riper. He move in 2003 to Tucson along with Dr. van Riper to complete his Ph.D., studying the community implications of parasite host interactions in a desert spring system in Central Arizona.  He is currently living and organic farming in Portland, Oregon.
Claire Crow

M.S. 2006 



Claire obtained a B.S. in Biology from Southern Connecticut State University in 1992, and completed a M.S. in Wildlife Management and Conservation at the University of Arizona. Since 1995, most of her work has been in the federal service and she is presently a SCEP student. Claire conducted her thesis research at Zion National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, and at Walnut Canyon National Monument and the surrounding Coconino National Forest in Arizona. She investigated relationships between vegetation characteristics and bird community dynamics in pinyon-juniper woodlands. Her field sites included areas previously treated with chaining, previously treated by hand-cutting, and untreated areas. Additionally, the project includes an examination of pre- and post- treatment data collected from a hand-cut site at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Her research applies directly to future decision-making and the evaluation of current practices in fire management and pinyon-juniper restoration. She was the Wildlife Program Manager at Zion National Park in Utah, and is now with the BLM as Manager of the Ironwood National Monument.

Alyssa (House) Rosemartin




Alyssa grew up outside of Philadelphia. She received her BA from Smith College in Spanish and Environmental Science in 2000. She served in the Peace Corps in northwestern Nicaragua, in the environmental education sector, from 2000-02. She has also worked at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Colorado, in education and research. She spent the past year interning at CEDO (the Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans) in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Her master’s thesis addressed the conservation and biology of shorebirds in the Upper Gulf of California wetlands. As well as being important migratory stopover habitat, these estuaries are also a key breeding area for endangered Least Terns. She was employed in the Phenology Network program at the University of Arizona and in 2015 retuned to her roots with her husband back in MA.

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